'"But that's not you. It's not really you when you are ill"
"Yes it is, it's a part of me."'
I'm exhausted. I've just finished reading Seahorses Are Real as part of the LibraryThing Early Reviewers programme. Whether it was the writing, the unrelenting misery, or my own problems getting in the way it took me all bloody week. For perspective I could usually finish something of that length in two days so yeah, I'm exhausted. As you can imagine I had a bit of a mixed reaction.
Seahorses are Real details the abusive relationship between Marley, who suffers from depression, and David. David plunged himself into the relationship with hopes of saving her and, as the novel opens, he realises he can’t. How surprising. And the misery they bring each other is the subject.
The idea that depression makes you miserable isn't new nor is the idea that it can make the lives of people around you miserable. You, in a sense, loose all perspective. Things get blown out of proportion, you become irrational. You can say, and do, shitty things as a result of that. I have. And I have the ends of relationships and bruises from punching walls to prove it.
But I think David gets off lightly here. He too has a skewed view of things. He is the stereotypical nice guy (with as many TM's as you would like) who wants to save Marley. In his dreams he is rescuing her. He thinks he can protect her and rescue her. Fix her. The fact that he can't, that he has failed adds bitterness to an already sour situation. I really don't think that is explored enough.
The story is told in through cycle of fighting and making up. Abuse and making nice. And the unrelenting cycle that is Marley’s life: Jobcenter, ineffectual councillor (who makes remarks and hand her pills in sealed envelopes, this book could be read as an advocacy for proper treatment if nothing else!), home. The cycle that she longs to ditch as much as the depressive thoughts.
Like that, as a study, the novel doesn’t do too badly. It shows the horrible reality of a couple who only show affection with a side of sarcasm and who are overly dependant on each other for their happiness quite well, even if Marley is up – I think unfairly – for more criticism.
However the writing falls short. And I hesitate to say thing because I can see what’s trying to be achieved but it does just tend to fall back. The overload of adjectives, clichéd similes, repetitive sentences are a tool to let us see through Marley’s mentally ill gaze. However with the third person it just makes the novel seem clumsy and unpolished.
When the viewpoint characters switch and we see things from David’s eyes it does so clumsily. Several places I was dragged out of the story wondering where I was and who I was with now.
I will treasure the description of the calm after the storm, the hopefulness following a breakdown but ultimately the writing keeps me from giving the thumbs up, excited grin recommendation.